Posts Tagged ‘walking’

Frayed around the edges and over-sensitive for no good reason. Always the paradox of wanting to leave one place and be in another, and then the fret about doing it and what I might find when I arrive.

Work over the road going on apace. Winters Barn, sold at the end of last year together with the field it stands in, has been completely pulled down. The field is full of heavy machinery and the radio goes all day. A flock of sheep is grazing and they appear to be charmingly right in amongst all this but they aren’t. Closer inspection reveals an electric fence.

They’ve renamed the place and I disapprove. The old name was good and the new one inappropriate. Like the doubling in size of the cowsheds down the road, these changes make me feel sad. I liked what I’d found here – the remoteness and the dark skies. Now there is orange light on all night in one direction (why, do cows crave streetlight?) and soon there will be people over the road plus the additional traffic all this creates. It’s already a local rat run. You NIMBY incomer, I chastise myself. What makes you the arbiter of how things should be?

Nice things: Sunshine, birdsong, lambs bleating in the distance. Leaf buds bursting everywhere: hazel, beech, hawthorn and rowan. Blackthorn blossom, tiny flowers nestling among brutal thorns. Gorse now fully out and wafting coconut after months of being only half in bloom. Delicate little short-lived wildflowers crouching close to the ground, easily missed. A new fern stalk standing proud of the crushed fronds of last year’s dry remains, unfurling slowly as if stretching after winter’s long sleep.

And lazy, bad-tempered me, who didn’t bother to take a proper camera because it’s only a walk.

a wood tree branches against a blue sky and clouds wild flowers

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Stuck

We’ve been stuck in London for a few weeks. My mother-in-law (or ex-mother-in-law, to be precise but it makes no odds) and two friends from the older generation died within a couple of weeks of each other, so it’s been impossible to get away with one thing and another. Then the Girl finally moved out and I’ve been feeling a bit low as a result of all this.

I do miss the Quantocks very much: our long solitary walks and the ponies on the hills.

Exmoor ponies grazing

And the sense of freedom that comes from the fine, long, uninterrupted views across the countryside.

view across field

To compensate, we have been going to Wimbledon Common in south London a lot and it’s lovely walking there too. It’s enormous and feels quite country-like. There are ponds and lakes and Nora has learned to swim. It’s getting quite hard to keep her out of the water…

dog swimming in pond

Here she is in Richmond Park, another favourite walking spot, on another day.

dog by a lake

We love the woods at Wimbledon.

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There are different kind of woods there. Some mixed deciduous on the hillier ground and one, in a very flat area, is just birch. It has a rather beautiful stillness about it on a cold winter’s day.

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The blackbirds have started singing, and magpies and great tits are collecting nesting materials in the garden. Quince is flowering here and there, and this morning I noticed a little bit of cherry blossom where yesterday there was none.

Dog amongst crocuses

It’s a good thing that Spring is just around the corner.   

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When I first moved here, my neighbours had opened permissive paths and bridleways across their land as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. We could do a circular walk across their land, over hills and past ponds right from the front door without driving anywhere first. Since then, their old age and the austerity of the last few years have meant that the Council-run scheme ended and the paths fell into disrepair and were closed.

On the positive side, the closure of our most walked local route has meant I’ve been trying to discover new ways across the land nearby. Being a bit more adventurous and going in new directions is always a good thing.

We found a lovely walk the other day through the wood on the brow of the hill that I can see from my kitchen window. I haven’t found a way through the trees to a spot from which I can see the cottage yet, so lots more scope for exploration here.

woodland

labrador retriever

path through woods with dog

woods

winter sunshine through trees

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Snow was forecast overnight. Drawing the curtains in darkness this morning, the electric outside light revealed a couple of centimetres of snow in the garden. Further afield, particularly uphill, there is a little more, so after a bone-warming bath and breakfast we head up the nearest hill for the dog to experience her first snowfall.

reflected chandelier

Before we can even get there, she goes a bit crazy in the garden but not at the snow, which she takes in her stride. It’s the frozen pond that freaks her out as she desperately tries to eat the incomplete sheet of ice covering it. “What’s this? Why can’t I pull it out? It’s so heavy. And COLD. I’ll zoom around like a lunatic because this is blowing my mind!”

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The snow reveals all kinds of things I don’t normally see: footprints of birds and deer that have passed only a short while before, branches that arch above my head pointing at vaulted structures of deadwood and ivy. A new beauty. It also hides uneven ground, deep mud, drifts of leaves that trip me up, cowpats that squelch over my boots as they get sucked into the ground beneath. I forgive them all.

snowy gate

dog in snowy wood

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snow covered old tractor

thawing snow

view from hills

Back home now. Holed up, hunkered down, behind battened hatches, I listen to the wind whooming down the chimney. That is the noise that it makes. The fire finally decides to stop smoking and I relax and curl up on the sofa with a book, a cup of tea, thick socks, a blanket and a sleeping dog. Bliss.

cottage in the snow

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tree in sunshinefrosty leavesthawing frosty leavesdry oak treetiny hazel catkins

black labrador

dog drinking from trough

We woke to a freezing house this morning because I hadn’t set the heating properly but the brightening landscape, clear blue sky and frosty ground soon resolved my annoyance.

Then Nora and I headed out up the hill for our morning walk. Unsually, we met my neighbour Suzie and her spaniels and Nora was delighted to play with them for a while. One of the things about country walks is that while people say hello more than in town, dogs don’t stop to play and people often apologise about their dogs sniffing yours, which is strange if you’re used to town dog behaviour. Single dogs are unusual – because they need the company I suppose.

Then I went off to get a Christmas tree from farmer John Hardwick at Cobbs Cross Farm just down the road. I could hardly get up the lane to the farm for people coming the other way down the narrow road. Looks like they’re doing well. I wrote about them in more detail a couple of years ago but they’ve got much more going on now. Someone there has definitely got an eye for an opportunity.

I was supposed to go Christmas shopping in Taunton – there was free parking but with the weather so lovely, I did some pruning instead and made a wreath for the front door with some of the results. It ‘s pretty ropey (you try making wreath with your dog running off with everything you put down for more than a second) and probably won’t last very long in this windy spot but at least it’s unique in its combination of bay leaves, heather and a few other bits and pieces. There’s even a tiny bit of holly.

Quite pretty, I think.

wreath on front door

 

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Walking the dog

Nora and I walk twice a day, every day, so once a week I try and go a little further afield and discover somewhere a bit new to entertain us. A couple of weeks ago we went to Petersham, just down the hill from Richmond.

Thames Path signpost

dog walking along riverbank

It wasn’t a very nice day and we got a bit wet but still managed to walk for an hour or so along the Thames Path to Ham House. Then Nora ran off and stuck her head into a bucket of curry that someone had left by a bin. Leftovers from a picnic, I think.

Ham House

I really wanted to go to Petersham Nurseries Cafe but it’s shut on Mondays. We made do with wandering around the nursery which is really prettily arranged to show off what they sell.

flowers in Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries bench

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham is an exclusive area full of Georgian houses which feels a little like a timewarp with even a ferry (hail by shouting across the river) to take people over to Twickenham. However, even if I could afford to, I wouldn’t want to live quite so close to the river though with flooding so prevalent these days. Makes for a lovely walk though.

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Cottage doorway through hedge

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If I want to impress visitors with just how special our little country can be, then Kilve, only 20 minutes away from the cottage, is always a good place to start. My kind-of-niece Z is staying, so I decide it’s about time we made another visit.

It’s a gentle walk to the beach from the A39 where we park in the free village car park opposite the pub. There’s another car park much nearer but it’s pay and display and it’s a shame to miss the walk which gives us a good snoop at the bungalows, Victorian houses and farmhouses that line the road.

Nora in Kilve graveyard

We briefly visit the lovely old church and graveyard overlooking a farmyard where a JCB is doing something that looks quite dangerous for the collie dancing by its side. “What’s a JCB?” Asks Z, who’s Canadian. “A digger,” I explain. “Why do we call them diggers?” asks my girl graduate… Hm.

Graves at Kilve

Door handle at Kilve church

Opposite the pay and display car park by the old retort, there’s a cricket match going on – that quintessential of all English pastimes. Kilve are playing Castle Cary and there’s blackboard inviting visitors to stop in and watch. We don’t – cricket is beyond me – I don’t mind watching it and love listening to it on the radio, but am incapable of explaining anything about it to anyone else. At any rate, the girls don’t look that keen.

Kilve v Castle Cary

So we set off on our walk along the path leading to the cliffs. Luckily the tide’s out so we go down and have a great scramble on one of the most remarkable beaches in the country.

Kilve from the cliffs

cliff top at Kilve

Kilve beach looking towards Minehead

Kilve is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). I have written about it here and here so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say it is a place well worth a visit, even if you’re not interested in fossils. I’m not particularly, but am so happy when we stumble across some pretty big ammonites. I’ve never seen such good specimens before.

Nora and the ammonite

The girl and Z make a good duo of red-haired mountain goats climbing up the cliff and we shout to each other across a little natural amphitheatre in the rock strata, our voices sounding strangely close by.

girls and rock strata

girls walking on Kilve beach

Nora chases her tennis ball through tide pools full of seaweed, sea urchins and barnacles. She loses it and I replace it with a second one which I am wisely carrying. Then she loses that as well.

Dog in a rock pool

Earlier she proved herself trepidatious where water is concerned; unwilling to plunge into the pool formed by the stream that flows alongside the road into the sea. Not even the ball can encourage her to do more than dip in her toes.

Pool made by the stream

The light is theatrical: bright in one direction and gloomy in the other, emphasising the rock strata. We are lucky to completely avoid a huge storm that builds up in the uncharacteristic heat of the day.

Kilve beach looking into the sun

Then we go home and eat freshly-baked scones in the garden with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Pretty perfect, I’d say.

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